Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan observed the third anniversary of a failed military coup against him on Monday in a speech at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, declaring that “Allah ruined” the enemy’s “traps” in his favor and honoring the “martyrs” who died fighting to keep him in power that day.
Late on July 15, 2016, a group of Turkish soldiers announced that they had overthrown Erdogan to restore the constitutional order they believed lost to Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian Islamist government. Erdogan surfaced after the announcement of his ouster in a televised interview with a mobile phone through Facetime, urging his supporters to take the streets and attack the soldiers. According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, 251 people died in the struggle that restored Erdogan to power and 2,200 were injured.
The Erdogan government blames Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania, for organizing the effort and bought an advertisement in the Washington Post on Monday demanding the United States extradite him. Gülen denies involvement in the coup effort and the American government has refused to extradite him, asserting that Erdogan’s team has not provided sufficient evidence for them to hand him over.
On Monday, Erdogan referred to his enemies in vague terms, emphasizing his own victory more than the identity of those who tried to remove him from power. He said the enemies had “sold their souls to the devil” and insisted no “traitors or terrorist organizations can disrupt the unity, solidarity, and brotherhood of Turkey.”
“On the night of July 15, they wanted to bury Turkey in darkness but failed. Allah ruined their traps,” Erdogan said. “I salute every member of our heroic nation who stood against planes, tanks, and bullets to protect the independence of our nation and the future of our country on July 15.”
“We announced this date as a national holiday, calling it Democracy and National Unity Day for the coming generations to remember the martyrs of July 15,” he added. “I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of myself and my nation to our media, non-governmental organizations and intellectuals for setting an example to the world.”
Anadolu Agency continued to insist that Gülen – through his “Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO)”, which the rest of the world refers to as the Islamic spiritual and educational movement known as Hizmet – organized and executed the failed coup. On the night of the coup, the organizers identified themselves as member of the armed forces, not of Hizmet, and issued a statement that appeared to define them as Kemalist separatists.
“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security that was damaged,” the coup organizers’ statement read. “All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue.”
Kemalists are radical secularists loyal to the national vision of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk strongly opposed Islamic governance and removed Arabic influences from Turkey’s culture and language. The Erdogan administration has never explained the alleged relationship between radical secularists and the Gülen Islamic movement.
During his initial appearance on television while the coup was going on, Erdogan did not specify who his enemy was, instead using the little time he had on his telephone while hiding in an undisclosed location to urge Islamist supporters to take the streets of Ankara and kill the coup plotters.
— Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) July 15, 2016
Upon returning to Istanbul, after his followers successfully forced coup organizers to flee to Greece, Erdogan identified a “breakaway army faction” as the responsible entity for the disturbance.
Erdoğan arrived in Atatürk airport, about to start speaking now.. pic.twitter.com/q7Xtth3OFJ
— Ahmed Al Omran (@ahmed) July 16, 2016
In the aftermath of the coup, Turkey police arrested, detained for interrogation, or fired from government jobs over 100,000 people for allegedly having ties to Fethullah Gülen.
In Monday’s Washington Post advertisement, the Turkish government insisted on Erdogan’s initial assessment that the coup plotters were military personnel, but claimed they were all a part of “FETO” and demanded that the United States extradite the cleric once again.
Ibrahim Karagül, an ally of Erdogan’s administration and editor-in-chief of the Ottoman imperialist newspaper Yeni Safak, went one step further in his regular column on Monday and accused the United States of orchestrating the failed coup through Gülen. His article is titled “A miracle that changed the course of history, a miracle that crammed the struggle of a millennium into a few hours! Every inch of this country is now a defense line. Don’t walk with anyone who remains dry-eyed in the memory of that deadly night. As they build multinational fronts in the Mediterranean, we march to the east of Euphrates in Syria.”
Calling the failed coup a “game-changing miracle,” Karagül stated that the initial attack on Erdogan “was launched on Turkey through the U.S., through Europe, as well as through other countries in our region.”
“It was not a coup but rather a civil war plot. It was not an intervention but rather an attempt to banish Turkey from history,” he added. “The terrorist teams under U.S. protection in Pennsylvania were targeting everything belonging to our country, our nation, our homeland, our values, our history, our union and integrity.”
After the coup, “we are ‘Great Turkey’ for the first time since the Ottoman Empire,” Karagül celebrated.